Welcome

 Welcome to the website of the Montreal folkgrass trio Steel Rail. Strong original material, superb three-part harmonies and hot picking have helped Tod Gorr, Ellen Shizgal and Dave Clarke win a loyal fan base in Central Canada. After almost a decade of living on opposite ends of the continent, the threesome are back together in Quebec, making new acoustic music that reflects the best of the folk, bluegrass and country traditions.

Check out their new album, Coming Home.

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New album Coming Home launches today  

Steel Rail is pleased to release Coming Home, the band's fourth album, on May 23, 2020. The CD celebrates a musical friendship that survived a cross-country separation, serious illness and a pandemic-interrupted recording process. 

Coming Home is a musical reunion of sorts, not just for Steel Rail themselves, who are releasing their first new album in 15 years. Bill Garrett, who co-produced the new  CD with Dave, was at the helm when Steel Rail released their first CD, A Thousand Miles of Snow, back in 1995.

Like all three of Steel Rail's earlier albums, Coming Home features 12 tracks that highlight the stellar vocals and striking songwriting of Tod Gorr, Ellen Shizgal and Dave Clarke.

You can read more details about the new album and preview some of the songs here.

 

At long last -- Coming Home  

In March, we previewed the cover of our new album, Coming Home. We're happy to say that, after a slight delay, the CDs have arrived, just in time for our new official release date of May 23. (What you see above is the inside cover of the album and the credits page.)

Coming Home features 12 songs by Tod, Ellen and Dave (in various combinations) that showcase the folk, bluegrass and country music we all love. 

Please stay tuned for a new page in the Music section that will tell you more about the CD, including how to order it!

April 25 CD launch derailed 

We're sorry to report that our CD launch concert at Le Petit Campus in Montreal on April 25 has been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like the rest of the country, we're self-isolating and staying safe, and we hope you are too. That means, however, that our coming-out party for our new album Coming Home has been put on hold, along with the rest of the excellent 2019/20 Wintergreen Concert Series.

We'll celebrate the new CD with a show once it is safe for everyone to come out (whenever that turns out to be).

In the meantime, stay tuned for an update soon on alternate album launch plans!

Please stay healthy.

Preview: Cover of our new album Coming Home 

We're thrilled to unveil the cover of our new album Coming Home, designed by the brilliant Michael Wrycraft. (If it looks familiar, that's because it is designed around the photograph by John Mahoney you see at the top of this site.)

The album, which features 12 Steel Rail originals, gets its official world launch April 25 at Le Petit Campus in Montreal, part of the Wintergreen Concert Series.
Those of you in Montreal can buy tickets here.

More details about the album and the show soon!

Bring on the snow (playlist)....  

We were thrilled to find out that the influential music site Roots Music Canada included A Thousand Miles of Snow from our first album in their snow-themed playlist last week. Among the other tunes on the list were Jesse Winchester's Snow, Song for a Winter's Night by Gordon Lightfoot, Nearly Midnight by David Francey and High Heels in the Snow by Lynn Miles -- heady company indeed.

Here's what writer Heather Kitching said about A Thousand Miles of Snow:

I’ve always felt that Montreal’s Steel Rail was a terribly under-rated act on the Canadian folk scene, so I welcome the opportunity to feature them on this list.  The trio writes some beautiful stuff – check out Penny Lang’s cover of Ellen Shizgal’s “Prairie Sky” – and their harmonies are lovely.  Also, the trio includes exceptional guitar instrumentalist Dave Clarke, who was David Francey’s sideman during his rise to the top of the folk A-list. “1,000 Miles of Snow” is a charming little song featuring Tod Gorr on lead vocals without the band’s signature harmonies in this case.  It’s a great showcase for that pure-as-a-winter-breeze voice of his.

Thanks, Heather! 

Here's a flashback photo from back when we were recording that album, taken by the fine Nova Scotia based photographer Nance Ackerman. The shoot was in March, but it was every bit as cold as a January day with a bitter wind, as you can tell from the distinctly frozen-looking expressions on everyone's face.

Autumn leaves 

 

We're happy to unveil our new band portrait, courtesy of talented Montreal photogapher John Mahoney. He shot Dave, Ellen and Tod on Thanksgiving weekend in the Laurentians near Prévost, Quebec. Mission: to come up with a cover photograph for Steel Rail's upcoming album Coming Home.

In the process, he also did some new portraits for posters, presenters and the press. Here's the one that resulted from a vote by band members and Tod's family. Stay tuned for more album news in the run-up to the album launch as part of the Wintergreen Concert Series at Le Petit Campus on April 25, 2020.

(And yes, that is a new banner at the top of our home page, part of that same Oct. 12, 2019, photo shoot. Thanks, John.)

New album news 

 

 

The photo at the top left is Steel Rail team getting mentally prepared for the next set of recording sessions for the upcoming Steel Rail album.

Actually Dave, Ellen and Tod were scouting locations for the album cover, which is being shot next weekend. Inspiration took them to the top floor of SR headquarters in Prévost, where renovations are in full swing. While they were up there, they recreated one of their favourite unofficial band portraits, right, taken outside the venerable Ottawa venue Irene's a couple of decades ago . (Twenty-plus years, for those keeping track.)

Recording sessions for the album, Coming Home, continue at Fast Forward studios in Notre Dame de Grâce under the watchful eyes of producers Bill Garrett and Dave Clarke and engineer Rob Heaney. We're gearing up for the band's official album launch at Matt Large's Wintergreen Series on April 25, 2020. Stay tuned!

 

Steel Rail summer update 


The hot weather hasn't kept Tod, Ellen and Dave from regular practices as they gear up for the next round of recording sessions for the upcoming Steel Rail album. The album, tentatively titled Coming Home, is taking shape in N.D.G.'s Fast Forward studio under the watchful eye of producer Bill Garrett and engineer Rob Heaney. Stay tuned for more news.

One summer night in Baie-d'Urfé 

Thanks to everyone who came out to the bandshell at the Fritz Community Centre for last night's free show along the lakeshore. The weather was great, the setting was splendid -- one of the most beautiful places the band has ever played -- and there was something sublime about listening to acoustic music and three-part harmonies while watching the sailboats out on the St. Lawrence.

As Keith Fyckes, one of the organizers, promised, the temperature was perfect and the mosquitos didn't really come out until after the last note was played. Thanks to Keith and Louise Otmar for booking us in the Baie-d'Urfé summer concert series.

Steel Rail now hunkers down for pre-production on the long-threatened new album. Look for more updates as the process gears up. Till then, happy summer, everyone.

P.S. For those who came expecting The Last Thing on My Mind, apologies. The song was punted at the last minute for Flower in the Wildwood, another old favourite, and a cover version of one of our favourite waltzes, Evangeline, written by Robbie Robertson. 

 

Sweet sounds on the Baie -- Baie-D'Urfé, that is 

We're hoping Montrealers, especially those of you on the West Island and Off Island, will be able to join us for a free outdoor concert Thursday night, July 12, at 7:30 p.m. in beautiful Baie-D'Urfé. The show will go on, rain or shine, either at the bandshell at the Fritz Community Centre, 20 477 Chemin Lakeshore (that's the shine location) or at the Red Barn, 20 609 Lakeshore if it rains.

You'll hear some Steel Rail originals along with some of the band's own bluegrass and folk favourites, including Tom Paxton's The Last Thing on My Mind, a mainstay of the SR repertoire at the beginning, and specially resurrected for this concert. 

It's supposed to be a balmy but not broiling summer night, you'll be near the river, and of course if you are coming from central Montreal, you will have the satisfaction of having survived the Turcot in your commute!

You can see how to find us here.. Bring the family and your summer cool!

Happy new year, everyone

We're starting 2019 with a chilly flashback -- Tod walking down the centre of a secondary highway in west-central Quebec in what became the cover for our first release, A Thousand Miles of Snow.
A couple of things about the photo, taken by our talented friend Nancy Ackerman. 1. It truly was freezing that early March day near Rigaud. 2. You can faintly see some car headlights materializing over Tod's right shoulder. Several other vehicles, including an 18-wheeler, were dodged before Nancy finally got this shot.
Speaking of releases, we are happy to report that Steel Rail is finally in a studio working on some tracks for our next album. Like A Thousand Miles of Snow, it is being co-produced by our good friend Bill Garrett. We'll keep you posted re: progress as the winter progresses.
In the meantime, all the best for 2019.